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How to Call an Albatross


I thought I was getting better. I was pretty much over this cold. And then I woke up with a raging sore throat and hardcore congestion. It’s baaack….

Dore and I spent the morning trying to get me better. We went to an urgent care pharmacy/doctor’s office, and after talking to the pharmacist were able to determine that this is probably not strep throat, but more likely just a nasty cold. So that’s good. But it still doesn’t make me feel better. Looks like I’m just going to have to tough it. We did get some lozenges to make my throat feel better, though. And we didn’t have to pay sixty-some-odd dollars to see a doctor. It always pays to talk to pharmacists.

Our original plan had us checking out Lanarch Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, but because we were feeling so wrung out we decided it would be best to just rest and save our energy for the wildlife tour we had booked the previous night. We headed back to the B&B and napped for the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon. We got up about 1:30 to grab a bite to eat and get ready for the three o’clock tour.

The tour met us at our B&B, and we were off. The tour was really cool. We got a chance to see a ton of wildlife ranging all over the Otago peninsula. Our first stop was at the very tip of the peninsula, at the Albatross Center. We saw two albatross on the way in, but then once we got there there were only a very few albatross flying way out into the ocean. Our binoculars were only barely powerful enough to see the birds, and using the camera was hopeless (not that I’d really be in any position to get any reasonable shots anyway). It was awesome to see the birds even from that distance, however. They have such a unique, effortless way of gliding over the water. They’re fascinating creatures. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on them. Really neat stuff.

Since there weren’t really too many birds to see, we spend a good bit of time just talking about them. Dore and I decided that it might be best to try to get some birds to come closer, so we devised a plan:

Me: “I think I’ll call them in.”

Dore: “How in the world are you going to do that?”

Me: “With an albatross call, of course.”

Dore: “Oh yeah? And what does that sound like?”

Me: “Like this: cuh-caw! cuh-caw!”

(You’ll have to imagine a really crappy cartoon crow noise here.)

Predictably, the albatross were not being very well behaved, and the call didn’t work very well. I think the wind was carrying the sound away from them or something. At any rate, the birds didn’t come any closer, so we headed out to our next site.

Along the way we drove across the peninsula on back-country roads and stopped to check out a number of native bird species. The scenery was really lovely, and the birds were pretty interesting. I think the pukako (I’m guessing on the spelling here) were my favorite, for being the most “foreign” looking of the species. The kingfishers were also pretty cool for their bright plumage, which is actually rare amongst New Zealand birds.

We finally arrived at our destination: a wind-swept farm high up on the bluffs over a private stretch of coastline. It was absolutely gorgeous, and felt completely remote. Other than a few fences here and there there were basically no signs of human habitation anywhere as far as the eye could see. This was the New Zealand I had come to see.

We first went down to see a colony of fur seals, which were completely adorable. We also happened across a number of albatross, who must have heard the call a bit late and come around to meet us. That was nice of them.

Next, we climbed back up and then down to the beach we had seen before, where we saw yellow eyed penguins as they came in from sea and some sea lions wrestling each other on the beach. We watched both of these until dusk, then headed up to the bus just as the light was fading. There was a brilliant nearly-full moon coming up over the ocean as we climbed the slope back to the top of the bluffs. It was quite gorgeous. And quite cold. By the time we got back into the bus Dore and I were almost completely frozen. It felt really good to get in out of the wind.

We chatted with the guides as we rode home. They were quite fun to talk to, just like guides everywhere tend to be. There’s a certain relaxed, fun-loving attitude that almost every guide I’ve ever met has shared, and it’s really fun to talk to them at the end of a trip, then their responsibilities are basically complete and they get a chance to relax.

We finally arrived back at the B&B around nine. As we got inside my cold, which I’d managed to mostly forget about on the tour, came crashing back in full force. I think it was a combination of the extended cold and exhaustion, but for whatever reason I came down with a fever, and was suffering from a pretty massive chill. I took a hot bath, then jumped into bed, shivering, while Dore went downstairs and ordered us some Chinese delivery. I incubated for a while until the food came, then went downstairs to eat. The food was pretty terrible, but it was the best Chinese food I had at the time, so I ate until I was stuffed, then we headed back upstairs to bed.

I prayed that I would be better in the morning.

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